John Gallo has been waiting a long time to call the shots for the Mohonasen football team in a game setting.
He was officially named the Mighty Warriors head coach for the second time back in December of 2019, and he will be making key decisions for both his offensive and defensive units Saturday in the “Fall II” season opener against Niskayuna.
“I am ready to compete,” Gallo said Monday before his team began its first game-week practice. “The kids are ready to compete.”
Gallo and his players thought that they would be doing that last fall before the season was called off due to COVID-19 concerns, and was later shifted to March and April.
“It was definitely devastating when we first heard news of the COVID,” Mohonasen senior quarterback and linebacker Tyler Reinke said. “We didn’t think we were going to get a chance. Now we’ve got seven games, and it’s amazing.”
Mohonasen is among the Section II teams that will go directly from a quick preseason that began March 7 to a game this weekend, with no scrimmage to allow coaches to evaluate players.
“I haven’t watched one kid play football at Mohonasen,” Gallo said. “There’s been a lot of, ‘I hear you’re not bad.’ We’ll find out stuff when the bullets are flying.”
The game will be part of a second football chapter involving Gallo and his alma mater, and while it will certainly be different than any contest he’s been a part of in so many ways, he’s not complaining one bit.
“Honestly, we feel very fortunate that our team is in this situation,” said Gallo, who served as Schalmont’s athletic director from 2004-18 before retiring. “We’re getting a chance. We feel fortunate in a lot of ways.”
Saturday’s game will be Gallo’s first as a head high school coach since he completed a nine-year run at Schalmont in 2006.
“He has a great history,” Reinke said of the Mohonasen Athletic Hall of Fame member. “He brings knowledge, dedication and hard work to the program. We’re excited to have him.”
Gallo previously led the Mohonasen varsity from 1988-91 as well as the La Salle varsity from 1992-96. His four Mohonasen teams went a combined 20-14-2.
“I love to coach football, but this isn’t about me,” said Gallo, who worked with the La Salle linemen in 2018 and 2019 as an assistant there. “It’s about 16-year-old kids who have been cooped up for 10 months.”
Before practices officially started, Mohonasen’s prep for the Fall II season included weight lifting, OTAs in the school gym to get acquainted with Gallo’s offensive and defensive schemes, and on the field non-contact drills and conditioning.
“We’re lucky,” Reinke said. “Our athletic director [David Bertram] let us go to the weight room and get on the field. All of that helps.”
Gallo and his staff handed our game jerseys Monday.
“It’s nice to see the kids being kids now,” said Gallo, who set football, wrestling and shot put records while a student-athlete at Mohonasen. “I’m more excited to see their faces than anything else.”
Gallo was missing several basketball players and wrestlers in the first week of practice while they quarantined due to COVID-19 issues, but he said his team will be at full strength for Niskayuna.
“We’ll have everyone eligible and ready to play,” said Reinke, who was named a Section II Class A first-team all-star in 2019 . “We want to show what Mohonasen is all about under coach Gallo.”